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Raging Trump Turns Pandemic Briefing Into Propaganda Session

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

President Donald Trump used the free network air time he receives daily for what are supposed to be coronavirus press briefings to run a taxpayer-funded propaganda video for his re-election campaign.

Trump is defending his horrific performance in managing the coronavirus pandemic after several deep-dive bombshell reports from The New York Times and NBC News revealed just how damaging the President's ignoring of the crisis has been.

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Fox News Scants Live Coverage Of Impeachment Trial

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

The Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump began last Tuesday, and cable news has mostly broadcast the proceedings live in their entirety — with the notable exception of Fox News’ evening shows.

Since Tuesday, January 21, Fox has aired just 13 hours and 39 minutes of the trial. By contrast, CNN and MSNBC have both aired the trial nearly in its entirety — CNN has aired 24 hours and 33 minutes while MSNBC has aired 24 hours and 14 minutes. (MSNBC’s slightly lower time total is primarily due to commentary during roll call votes, which we did not count.)

The gap in coverage among the networks — nearly 11 fewer hours on Fox — is almost entirely due to the network’s evening shows (5 p.m. to midnight), which largely ignored the live proceedings after Day 1. 

Fox aired 3 hours and 52 minutes of the January 21 session during evening broadcasts while CNN aired 6 hours and 18 minutes and MSNBC aired 6 hours and 1 minute.

During the January 22 session, Fox aired just 15 and a half minutes of coverage during evening hours while both CNN and MSNBC aired 3 hours and 58 minutes. During prime-time programming, Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight and Hannity aired a combined total of just under 2 minutes of live trial footage. During that same time frame, CNN and MSNBC each aired 1 hour and 43 minutes.

During the Senate’s January 23 session, Fox’s evening coverage aired a paltry 4 and a half minutes of the trial live while both CNN and MSNBC each aired 4 hours and 24 minutes. Fox’s prime-time shows virtually ignored live broadcasting of the trial; between 8 and 11 p.m., the network aired a total of 22 seconds, all of which were brief transitions between regular programming and commercial breaks during Tucker Carlson Tonight. During that same time frame, CNN and MSNBC aired approximately 2 hours and 14 minutes each.

Of particular note, Hannity aired less than 1 minute of live coverage during the January 21 session, less than half a minute during the January 22 session, and none of the trial during the third session. The Five aired no live footage at all of the trial during both the January 22 and 23 sessions. Additionally, The Story and The Ingraham Angle likewise completely avoided broadcasting any live coverage during the January 23 session.

Afternoon coverage, from 1 to 5 p.m., was generally similar across all three networks. During the January 21 session, the cable networks all aired roughly 3 hours of live coverage each. During the January 22 session, CNN and MSNBC aired about 3 and a half hours of live coverage each while Fox aired 3 hours and 12 minutes of live coverage. And during the January 23 session, CNN and MSNBC aired 3 hours and 28 minutes each while Fox aired 3 hours and 14 minutes. Fox’s discrepancies on January 22 and 23 are explained by the network cutting to commercial during some portions of the live proceedings.

Methodology

Media Matters reviewed raw video from the Snapstream video service of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial on January 21, 22, and 23, 2020. We reviewed video from the moment the trial was scheduled to go into session, 1 p.m., until it was adjourned by Chief Justice John Roberts. We counted coverage as “live coverage” if the network aired audio and video of the trial without commentators speaking over it. 

The January 21 session adjourned the following morning at approximately 1:50 a.m. We included the additional hours in our evening analysis. The January 22 session adjourned at approximately 9:43 p.m. that evening. The January 23 session adjourned at approximately 10:32 p.m.

MSNBC Sides With Rape Apologist, Fires Contributor For Tweet Mocking Rape Apologists

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

MSNBC reportedly cut ties with contributor Sam Seder after far-right date rape apologist Mike Cernovich spread a 2009 tweet in which Seder mocked defenders of Roman Polański, a film director charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. MSNBC’s decision to fire Seder comes on the one year anniversary of the shooting at Comet Ping Pong, which Cernovich helped spark by relentlessly pushing the “alt-right”-fueled “pizzagate” conspiracy.

According to a December 4 report by The Wrap, MSNBC “has decided not to renew its contract with contributor Sam Seder after an old tweet emerged … brought to wide attention last month by the pro-Trump journalist and activist Mike Cernovich.”

Seder explained Cernovich’s “smear involves the willful misinterpretation of a tweet that I posted in 2009” that was criticizing rape apologists, but MSNBC sided with Cernovich, who previously asked “Have you guys ever tried ‘raping’ a girl without using force? Try it. It’s basically impossible. Date rape does not exist,” and claimed“A whore will let her friend ruin your life with a false rape case. So why should I care when women are raped?”

In a tweet, Media Matters Senior Fellow Matt Gertz added that the attacks against Seder ignored that when Seder made the satirical joke in 2009, he may have been responding to the media outlets and personalities that were inappropriately defending Polanski at the time.

The reported termination of MSNBC’s relationship with Seder comes one year after a gunman walked into Comet Ping Pong, a popular family pizza restaurant, to investigate a fringe right-wing conspiracy theory that the restaurant was a cover for a pedophilia ring. Cernovich repeatedly promoted the false claim on Twitter.

By severing ties with Seder, MSNBC has now made the same mistake that former New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd made when she legitimized Cernovich’s harassment campaign against New York Timesreporter Sopan Deb.

MSNBC and The New York Times’ willingness to affirm a conspiratorial right-wing troll’s campaign to smear journalists and media figures sets a dangerous precedent. It threatens the credibility of serious media outlets when they choose to side with personalities like Cernovich who have a long track record of racismmisogynyconspiracy theories, and misinformation.

Language has been updated for clarity.



Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Fox News Revenue Plummets As Advertisers Drop Hannity

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Fox News’ role as a secondary communications shop for Donald Trump and host Sean Hannity’s advertiser troubles are apparently starting to affect the network’s bottom line.

In September 2017, Fox News’ ad revenue dropped a whopping 17 percent as compared to September 2016, while CNN’s dipped 1 percent and MSNBC’s increased 2 percent.

To be fair, modest fluctuations in advertising revenue between presidential election years and off years are absolutely normal and expected; typically, year-to-year revenue will decline in off years compared to presidential election years.

You can see those typical fluctuations reflected in MSNBC’s minor gain and CNN’s minor decline. Fox News’ decline, though, is sharp and wildly out of whack with its cable rivals.

The relative disproportion of Fox’s 17 percent loss means that it can’t be attributed merely to normal market fluctuations. If the market as a whole was the primary cause, then you’d see larger changes at CNN and MSNBC too. Accordingly, this massive loss indicates that there are other factors unique to Fox that are driving the drop.

The single biggest factor likely driving this decline is the fallout from advertisers leaving Sean Hannity’s program.

Yes: Sean Hannity is losing advertisers! And, as we have seen before, when advertisers start leaving, revenue begins to decline.

Advertisers first became skittish about Hannity’s program in May of 2017 after he began promoting conspiracy theories about the July 2016 murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer. The conspiracy theory drew widespread backlash, including from the victim’s family, journalists, and even others at Fox News. Yet Hannity carried on peddling the conspiracy theory, and he actually started lashing out at Fox News and its advertisers.

Hannity signaled that he was volatile and that his volatility could prove bad for business. So advertisers started paying attention. At this time, I also started to hear rumblings about advertisers dropping Hannity’s program.

As the weeks went on, Hannity’s conspiracy theories, smears, and attacks intensified. In early August, Media Matters responded to Hannity’s escalating extremism by launching an effort to educate advertisers about his conspiracy theory peddling, his collaboration with the White House to advance Trump’s interests, his efforts to undermine the rule of law, and the odious and reckless nature of his claims.

In early September, the Associated Press looked at the first few weeks of the Stop Hannity campaign. Its resulting report included a public statement from Cadillac about why the company had stopped advertising on Hannity’s program; it also pointed out that Media Matters had heard from over a dozen companies that had similarly ceased advertising on Hannity’s show.

Based on my extensive experience with these kinds of campaigns, my sense is that Hannity’s advertiser losses are more significant than the dozen or so large companies that have provided explicit statements. Rather, Hannity’s volatility has become so widely recognized that media buyers, out of concern for their clients, are simply excluding Hannity’s program from their selections from the outset in order to avoid getting sucked up into one of his conspiracy theories or contemptible attacks.

Hannity’s recent collaboration with and defenses of serial sexual predator Bill O’Reilly will only make advertisers more wary about associating with him. And the fact that Fox News eagerly embraced this collaboration and actively promoted it will validate advertisers’ concerns about the Fox News brand as a whole. Rightfully so!

The timing of Fox News’ massive ad revenue loss lines up almost exactly with Hannity’s loss of advertisers. It’s safe to say that it’s more than mere coincidence. They’re connected.

Sean Hannity is costing Fox News. Fox News accepts this either out of the goodness of its executives’ hearts, or, more likely, because the network prioritizes advancing a political agenda and Hannity helps advance that agenda. Those political priorities create an additional contributing factor to Fox News’ revenue drop: the bigotry, vitriol, lies, and rank partisan machinations that have come to define Fox News’ brand.

Aside from the Fox News lies that are put on full display for all every time Trump parrots a Fox & Friends segment, a look at the network’s coverage of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, back in August tells you all you need to know about Fox News’ maleficence. On that day, a protestor was run over and killed by a white supremacist. Instead of covering the tragic death for what it was, Fox News spent several hours maligning the people protesting white supremacists and repeatedly suggesting that the white supremacist driver was acting out of self-defense — needless obfuscation from Fox News that seemingly contributed to Trump’s initial “both sides” comment.

That’s not an outlier. There’s a list a mile long of examples just like that, because it’s the Fox News brand.

Mostly driven by concerns around digital advertising, companies are becoming increasingly mindful about brand safety and intentionality in that advertising. And that mindfulness is starting to influence other advertising decisions as well, like television sponsorships.

Companies do not want their advertising to be associated with rank partisanship, bigotry, or deceit. They recognize that it’s bad for business. But Fox News continues to offer all three in spades, and as a result, I suspect it is beginning to have a downward effect on the network’s commercial viability as a whole.

Bottom line is this: Fox News’ ad revenue plummeted. It’s likely largely attributable to Hannity’s growing advertiser losses. And it also appears to reflect a deeper vulnerability in Fox News’ business model of bigotry, deceit, and partisanship.

Angelo Carusone is the president of Media Matters for America.